Topographies and functions of emerging problem behavior and appropriate requests in neurotypical preschoolers

Tara A. Fahmie, Amanda R. Garcia, Jasmine H. Poetry, Emily M. Tierman, Rima Hamawe, Sarah T. Marks, Sandy Jin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The current study builds on a small but growing body of research evaluating the formal and functional characteristics of emerging problem behavior before it becomes harmful and requires costly treatment. The researchers tested 21 preschool children's sensitivity to establishing operations that commonly precede severe problem behavior. Sensitivity tests were embedded in a small group play context to optimize safety, efficiency, and ecological validity. The tests screened several levels of problem-behavior severity as well as the presence of adaptive alternatives (i.e., communication) to problem behavior. Overall, outcomes suggested sources of reinforcement for minor- and moderate-severity problem behavior in 86% of children. Only 17% of children exhibiting problem behavior also engaged in appropriate requests in the same condition(s) as problem behavior. The present data are compared to published functional analyses of severe behavior. The results are discussed as a preliminary step towards a function-based model of risk identification and behavioral prevention of severe problem behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2199-2214
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of applied behavior analysis
Issue number4
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • functional analysis
  • precursor
  • prevention
  • risk
  • screening

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Applied Psychology


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